Saturday Sept 8, 2018 – Prague to Frankfurt
Posted from onboard the EC117 using the phone’s hotspot as there was no wifi on the train.
While the German rail network (DB) is awesome, strangely, there are no direct connections from Prague to Frankfurt. All the trains I got had a connection from Dresden, so I booked a connection through Berlin instead of Dresden. It was lucky that I did that, because we could leave two of our suitcases at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof rather than carry them to Prague.
Our train from Prague was at 10.33 am, so we reached the Prague central station with enough time to spare. We walked around to see if we could find a vegetarian place to eat and finally decided to eat a sandwich at Subway, even though they placed the cheese slices in the meat section. Then like many others we walked up to the first level landing and looked up at the massive electronic board that showed the departure timings and platform numbers for the trains leaving from Prague. We spent a few anxious minutes as we couldn’t understand why some trains came on platforms numbered 3 or 5 while some others arrived on platforms that were named S3 or S7 or J4 or J2 …. Krishnan figured it out yesterday night. There are only 7 platforms currently at the Prague station. If the train that arrives on any platform has just 3 or 4 coaches then the platform shows S3 or J3 depending on whether the train is headed north or south. If the train has 11 coaches like ours did, then just the platform number flashes. But on that day, we were anxious and we managed to make one of our co-passengers also anxious :):).
As luck would have it, our train arrived on platform 6 and ten minutes late. We saw that a lot of people moved towards the platform and we followed them. Our train arrived ten minutes later and our coach couldn’t be found !! Krishnan had seen on the display board that coach 262 was the last coach so we moved towards it only to realize that the train reversed its direction while leaving from Prague and hence what we thought as the last coach was the first coach. We panicked and decided to get into some coach and then make our way to the last coach. Like us a few others had also got into some coach as the departure time neared. We walked through the vestibules and reached coach 262 only to realize it was 1St class. I thought I had booked all the train journeys in 2nd class but this was 1st class. We stood around for a few minutes till a ticket checker came onboard and we showed him our tickets. He confirmed that our tickets were fine and we had apparently booked in 1st class. So we sat down at our designated seats and enjoyed the rest of our journey.
We thought that the train would make up the ten minutes delay but it didn’t. It reached Berlin Hbf 10 minutes late to platform 14. Our ICE (Intercity Express) train to Frankfurt was at 3.33 pm from platform 13 (adjacent to the platform where we arrived and we had to get our luggage from the lockers. Krishnan waited with the one suitcase that we had carried to Prague on platform 13 and I went down to the luggage locker space on level 1. There was no help available but now I was a pro with luggage lockers :). I went to our locker and it showed 12 Euros as the money to be paid, so I went to the change machine and got 2 Euro coins for a 20 Euro note and paid for the locker. Took our luggage out and I was on platform 13 within 5 minutes. Krishnan was suitably impressed and hugely relieved as well.
Our ICE train arrived 10 minutes before departure time and we got into our seats comfortably. The journey to Frankfurt was easy-peasy and we reached Frankfurt Am Main train station by 6.40 p.m on time. We walked out of the station to look for Hotel Saravana Bhavan which is on KaiserStrabe a road that is opposite to the main entrance of the Frankfurt central station. We found it easily and ate a 14-idli sambar and a plain dosa just for fun. We then went to the “spiceland” Indian grocery store which is just a store or two after Saravana Bhavan. Their stocking was so good that I told Krishnan that they would have been tough competition for grocery stores in India and here in Frankfurt, it was truly amazing. I bought poha, jeera and Wagh Bakri tea bags.
We then walked across to the “U” station at Willy Brandt Plaza to take the U2 as directed by our Airbnb host. While waiting for the train, we heard some man shouting in pain and some of his friends tried to use the “SOS” phones on the station. Some help hopefully arrived as we weren’t able to see where he was so didn’t know if any help arrived.
We got onto the train and reached our designated station and as we got off, and tried to find our way using the Google maps, a couple who had travelled in the same train asked us in English if we needed help. We showed them the address and they walked with us till the turn off into the lane. The husband had visited India and they realized that it was late and we were struggling a bit to find the way in the dark. So anyone telling you that Germans are aloof and serious kinds, please don’t accept that stereotype. Germans are warm and helpful people as we have experienced right through this trip. They are just law abiding and stick to their rules – which is just fine !
Our Airbnb was beautiful and we had a little interaction with our host before nodding off for the day.